(Maggie and I have set a hike of Black Mountain as our monthly evaluation hike in working up to Machu Picchu. The goal is to be able to see our fitness increases gained over the course of the month and to assess what we need to do to ensure our readiness for our September trek on the Inca Trail.)
March 24, 2014. 5:30 AM. As I sit in my car, lacing my boots in the dark, it is not lost on me that just 24 months ago I was boarding a plane to Nepal to start what was the best few weeks of adventure I had ever had. It was also not lost on me that only 12 months ago, I was beginning what was to be the worst few weeks of my adult life in watching my father’s slow death and in taking him home to be buried. And here I stood, at the parking lot of Black Mountain, getting ready to challenge myself in preparation for the next adventure.
I put on my headlamp
and headed out. It had been two years since I had done this hike, and I knew there had been quite a bit of trail development in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. My lamp lit the trail well and for the first time ever, I also hiked with my iPod playing in my ear. As I walked past houses where people still remained warm in their bunks, I thought about how nice it was to still be able to just drive up to the end of the burbs and start hoofing it. Soon I was at the little water retention dam and knew that once I had put it behind me, it would not be long until I would be on trail and officially out of the suburban beginnings of the hike.
I trudged on thinking about how my feet were feeling, assessing if I had laced my boots well, if they were feeling good, if the iPod would last the whole hike and wondering if the coyotes were watching me in the dark. Every now and then the monotone voice of my MapMyFitness app would tell me how far I had gone. I had not yet left what was a service road and started to doubt if I had gotten on the right trail. The sun was starting to make an appearance and as I looked back down the mountain I could see I had gotten myself on the next hill over by crossing the front of the dam instead of the back. So around I turned and headed back to the dam.
I texted Maggie, who intended to begin after me and she confirmed my mistake just about the time I arrived back down the to the dam. Now I could read the signs and there it was. I needed the 404 trail and that is on the back of the dam! I had eaten up so much of my lead time that I was mad with myself. I am less fit than Maggie and did not want to slow her down on her test hike. But it was what it was so I went around the dam and found the trailhead. I put my lamp away and started in, now with over 2.5 miles extra logged.
I hiked up and up and felt pretty good. Slow but good. There was nobody around on what is usually a freeway. A benefit of coming quite early on a Sunday morning. I could feel the walk in my legs and I took note of a few issues with my boots and feet. This being the first real hike of the year, my feet are not yet conditioned and I knew they may be sore. I was trying a lighter weight boot too, and that may have been a mistake as the bottoms of my feet were getting more feedback from the trail than I like.
Around six miles in I had to start assessing whether to go to the top or not. I had burned a couple miles that I sure could have used energy-wise on my mistaken start.
I sat down and ate a few nuts and seeds and drank a considerable amount of water. All of a sudden Maggie was there and we talked about how things had gone to this point. Given the fact she had not added a two plus mile spur, she was going to continue up. I decided I needed to head back because my feet were pretty sore and the left boot was throwing into pronation pretty aggressively. I had a small blister on my middle toe and could feel a hot spot on my big toe from the posture of my foot in pronation. So she went up, and I headed down.
It was a long hike and I was a bit worried that it was going to really set me back. I hadn’t really planned on more than 6 miles and this was 9.5 by the time I was done.
In the end, I was tired and sore but had gotten great information about what gear and fitness things I need to work on over April. Cannot WAIT until we tackle this at the end of April and see how I do then!